President Obama cuts Asia trip short because of shutdown
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama has canceled two stops on his long-planned trip to Asia because of the partial government shutdown, the White House announced Wednesday.
Obama is scheduled to leave Saturday night for what was originally a four-nation tour. The White House said Obama will still travel to Indonesia and Brunei, but is calling off the final two stops in Malaysia and the Philippines.
The shutdown took effect early Tuesday after Congress missed its deadline to fund the government.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that since Malaysia and the Philippines were "on the back end of the President's upcoming trip, our personnel was not yet in place and we were not able to go forward with planning."
Hayden added: "The cancellation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government. This completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to promote U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership in the largest emerging region in the world."
The White House said Obama called Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday to inform them of his change in plans and commit to traveling to both countries later in his term.
"I empathize and understand," Najib said Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur. "If I were in his shoes, I would do the same."
In Manila, Ricky Carandang, a spokesman for Aquino, also said Obama's decision was understandable, and said the Philippines looks forward to welcoming him "at a more opportune time."
The trip is part of Obama's broader focus on boosting U.S. economic ties with Asia. Obama twice canceled trips to Asia in 2010, once to stay in Washington for votes on his health care law, and once because of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.